December 12, 2009
Here is my Portacath
If you are a regular reader of Portland Firefly’s blog, you may remember that shortly after my diagnosis of Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma, I chose to have a device inserted into my upper chest wall to facilitate the administering of my Chemotherapy drugs. This device is called a Portacath.
A short surgery was required to install the portacath. The portacath is a device that is inserted under the skin in my upper chest wall. Attached to the device is a tube which runs (also under my skin) up toward my neck and is then inserted well into my Vena Cava which is the main artery leading into my heart. It is very ‘science fictiony’ and I only experienced minor discomfort for a few weeks after it was installed in my body.
The reason for having a Portacath is it provides a means of administering the Chemotherapy drugs without having to put a needle into my vein every time. It also provides a ‘port’ for my weekly blood draws. Since my cancer ~Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma~ is so aggressively deadly I will be on Chemotherapy probably for most of the rest of my life. My blood will also need monitoring at least several times a month.
Even though I have excellent veins, the numerous continuing needle sticks that my illness requires would cause them to collapse and become scarred in a short period of time and so the Portacath offers a very real solution to just one more problem associated with Cancer patients care and treatments.
There is a special bent needle that is inserted through my skin, into the portacath. The nurse then flushes the line to be sure that there is no blockage. When I have my blood drawn, the nurse then draws out the amount of blood needed for my lab tests and then she once again flushes the line to keep it clear for next time. When I have my chemotherapy, the IV drugs are administered into the end of the portacath and when I am finished, the needle is withdrawn (pulled out) and a tiny bandaid is put over the spot in case it bleeds a little.
Here is a picture of my portacath. You can see the place where the bent needle is inserted into the device (which is under the skin of my upper chest wall). I am holding the end where the blood is drawn out and this is also the place where the chemo nurses insert the tubing to administer my Chemo drugs. I am so very thankful for this modern advancement in medicine as it truly has made my cancer life a lot easier.